UK Lawmakers Reject PM Johnson's Request to Hold an Early Election

Tuesday, 10 Sep, 2019

Legislators want the government to make available text messages and emails from aides and officials relating to the suspension of parliament and Britain's exit from the European Union amid accusations Johnson is using the break to circumvent opposition to the planned October 31 exit without a deal in place.

Parliament was suspended - or prorogued - at just before 02:00 BST on Tuesday. On a visit to Dublin, Johnson said a no-deal Brexit would be a "failure of statecraft" that would damage the British and Irish economies.

In the past week, they have passed a law that would force Mr Johnson to request a three-month delay to Brexit to 31 January 2020, with the option of further delays.

On Monday, the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who played a key role in the three-year Brexit crisis, said he would stand down from the role, issuing a warning to the Government not to "degrade" Parliament.

Earlier on Monday evening, the government had lost a vote which mandated senior officials to publish formerly private WhatsApp and other messages relating to the suspension of parliament.

"I wish my successor the very best fortune in standing up for the rights of [members of Parliament] individually and for parliament institutionally", Bercow said.

"This Government is only interested in shutting down Parliament to avoid any scrutiny", the Labour leader said.

Johnson said he would cut short the parliamentary term so he can outline his domestic agenda at a new session of Parliament in October.

After expelling 21 of his Conservative MPs who rebelled over the Brexit law last week, Johnson no longer has a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.

Johnson was also heavily criticised for ignoring the new law and curbing any parliamentary oversight by suspending the parliament until 14 October.

But the main opposition Labour party said it would only back an election once "no deal" was off the table.

Boris Johnson visit to Ireland
Boris Johnson meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Government Buildings Dublin

The Prime Minister opened the debate by attacking the twomain opposition parties and accusing Jeremy Corbyn of trying to put off a poll.

"There is no way that Johnson copes with all three factions - apart from resignation and a hope that he'll get back into 10 Downing Street in a coalition with the Brexit Party, as a prime minister in name if not authority".

The Prime Minister, who was in Dublin for talks with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, said he believed it was possible to secure an agreement ahead of the UK's scheduled departure at the end of October.

Following the result the Prime Minister said he would strive to broker a deal with the European Union but said he would not delay Brexit any further.

Varadkar's blunt remarks indicate the difficulty of Johnson's gamble of using the threat of a no-deal exit to convince Germany and France that they must rewrite an exit pact struck last November.

Meanwhile, the Yes vote on independence in 2014 was far bigger than expected at the start of the campaign - even though No won - and the 2016 vote for Brexit of course took everyone by surprise.

The EU says Britain has not produced any concrete proposals for replacing the contentious "backstop", a provision in the withdrawal agreement reached by Johnson's predecessor Theresa May that is created to ensure an open border between EU member Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland.

"In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us", he said.

However, the Financial Times takes a more nuanced view, saying that the Speaker has stood up for the House of Commons and given it teeth during hard times.

But Mr Varadkar said that while Ireland was open to alternative solutions to the Northern Ireland backstop, it had yet to see any "legally workable" proposals from the UK.